General Post Office, Sydney

The original section of the General Post Office (GPO) Sydney was erected at the George Street end of the existing Martin Place site. The building was designed by New South Wales colonial architect James Barnet. Opened in 1874, it replaced an earlier building on the same site that the postal service had occupied since 1830. With constant extensions and renovations the GPO building functioned as the centre of the New South Wales postal system until 1996.

Records relating to the Sydney GPO

The National Archives in Sydney holds a wide range of records relating to the Sydney GPO and the operations that occurred within its walls. These include many thousands of photographs, a range of architectural plans and drawings (including original hand-coloured plans signed by James Barnet and an extension proposal by Walter Burley Griffin), and a range of correspondence files relating to the history of the building, its management and maintenance. Examples of these records are included in the table below.

The development of the Sydney GPO led to the conscious remodelling of the surrounding area. Records in series C3994 detail the resumption of the entire side of an opposite block and the development of the precinct in a style that was sympathetic to the GPO. St Martin's lane became Martin Place – lined with the GPO and new suitably statuesque buildings, it became an important public space in Sydney.

Records of Sydney GPO

Photographic records

Title or description of record Date range Series, item number
Photographic negatives 1860–1967 C4076
Dead letter office 1910 C4076, HN1487
Mail Branch football club 1967 C4076, HN12034
Historical photographic prints 1870–1914 C4009
James Barnet (architect) atop column 1870 C4009, 38
Despatch Room, Mail Branch, Christmas Day, 1914 1914 C4009, 34
Photographic negatives 1888–1976 C4078
Postmen at GPO 1937 C4078, N878A
GPO posting windows, 1927 1945 C4078, N2458
Poster of carvings of heads above GPO facade 1953 C4078, N4350
Fire at Sydney GPO 1965 C4078, N23851
Australian Construction Services photographic records of heritage properties and sites 1870–1995 C5018
Building and construction of GPO and its surroundings, interior and aerial 1877–1982 C5018, album 2

Architectural plans and drawings

Title or description of record Date range Series, item number
Plans and drawings of the GPO, Sydney 1867–1980 C3793
Pitt Street extension – basement plan (hand-coloured cloth paper signed by Barnet) 1880 C3793, 41305
George Street extension – 1st floor plan (tracing paper) 1890 C3793, 50236
Colonial Architect's plans of Sydney GPO 1881 SP1136/1
Pitt Street extension – 3rd floor plan (hand-coloured cloth paper signed by Barnet) 1881 SP1136/1, PMG41313/5B
Pitt Street extension – elevation to Pitt Street (hand-coloured cloth paper signed by Barnet) 1881 SP1136/1, PMG41313/7B
Post Office plans and drawings 1887–1952 C4001
Plans of GPO by Barnet 1887 C4001, 10
Proposed extensions to GPO drawn by W B Griffin 1920 C4001, 11

Correspondence files

Title or description of record Date range Series, item number
Title documents regarding ownership of GPO site 1804–89 SP1307/1
Post Office historical files 1850–1988 C3994
Plans, correspondence, etc, re development of Martin Place c.1885–1900 1879–1953 C3994, 22/8
Booklet to 1874 opening of new GPO 1874–1960 C3994, 25
Sydney GPO carvings 1878–84 C3994, 26
GPO, Sydney building specifications 1879–1985 C4017
PMG building files 1908–57 SP366/1
Property files 1909–48 SP351/1
Hoffnung's building – lease 1938–39 SP351/1, CL3586
Inspection/Buildings Branch correspondence files 1913–50 SP305/1
Works and Services – property acquisition files 1913–69 SP857/1
GPO Sydney 1945–73 SP857/1, PA/968
Works and Services – property acquisition files 1914–58 SP857/2
GPO Sydney – lease of adjoining property to John Sands Pty Ltd 1914–58 SP857/2, PA1940/163
GPO – acquisition of adjoining property (Hoffnung's Chambers) and remodelling of GPO 1923–39 SP857/2, PA/138
Post Office personality files 1955–88 C3641
Walter Burley Griffin's involvement with the GPO 1970 C3641, GRIFFIN WB
Correspondence files of the Chief Property Officer 1920–51 SP228/1
Acquisition of easement for the construction of a tunnel connecting GPO and Commonwealth Bank 1939–48 SP228/1, CL10196
Correspondence files of the Chief Property Officer 1936–47 SP246/2
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (re land titles surrounding GPO) 1911–21 SP246/2, NL/223
PMG building files 1940–45 SP1411/3
Specifications – Director of Works, NSW 1947–53 SP277/1
Accommodation files re GPO and postal buildings 1962–75 SP1856/1
Administrative accommodation – GPO reconstruction 1965–70 SP1856/1, TW1041/1 part 1
Correspondence files – accommodation and site redevelopment 1962 SP1856/2
Exhibition material (includes photographic copies of some items from SP1307/1) 1983– C3623

1939 Royal Commission into Sydney GPO

Title or description of record Date range Series number
Transcripts of evidence, exhibits and report of the Royal Commission 1939 SP971/2